[ilds] RG Justine 1.1-9-- active reading & Justine

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Thu Apr 19 16:06:54 PDT 2007

Bruce wrote:

> Haag says it well, and I think he is right.  Credit goes
> to the author.  I do not think "active reading" elevates
> the reader/critic to the status of the author.

I both agree and disagree here, but for reasons that are somewhat outside of
the text itself (a proviso)...

I must sound like a broken record constantly going back to T.S. Eliot, but
his theory of impersonality, tradition, the objective correlative, and so
forth had a broad impact.  No, I don't think Durrell agreed with Eliot, but
he did respond to him, and several of the allusions to Eliot in the Quartet
are more than simply allusions.  I tend to think they indicate Durrell's
conceptual differences from Eliot as well.  The author-reader relationship
is, to my mind, one of those differences.  That said, an author entirely
intent on controlling the scene would sure not leave us so many gaps and
silences as does Durrell: the silence of the narrator's non-response to
Clea's letter (Justine 4), the silence of a blank page, the silence of
Pursewarden's message on the mirror in soap (added at the proof stage for
Balthazar), the silence with which Darley leaves those looking at
Pursewarden's message.

Durrell may limit what his active readers do not have access to, but he
certainly prompts us to add to and continue the text in the frame he's

Eliot exerted great effort to distance the author from the text and to
render the author invisible to the reader.  Whatever his reasons for doing
that, I don't think Durrell agreed.  That said, I don't think Durrell had a
naïve sense of his works expressing himself either -- he grew in complexity
through that struggle with the shadow of his predecessor.

Moreover, this gives a context for Durrell's 'readerly' tricks.  I think
some things are meant to multiple and others have their range of
potentiality closed.  I'd agree with Bruce that " multiple does not mean
valid," but I'd also suggest that few good readings resolve themselves down
to only one possibility...

A closed text is a boring text while the open text entices.


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